My first memory of seeing Carleen Anderson speak was on a short piece of music news reportage circa 1990, which was also the last time England reached a World Cup semi final in football, but more importantly it was at the height of London’s Acid Jazz scene. She was interviewed as the lead singer of über influential Talkin’ Loud label group The Young Disciples.
As the daughter of soul singer Vicki Anderson, and the God-daughter of James Brown – yes that James Brown – she added a kudos and credibility to what was an already incredibly hip scene. DJ Gilles Peterson, Mother Earth, Corduroy, Omar, The Brand New Heavies, The K Creative and Jamiroquai – whom I saw playing upstairs at London’s Imperial College for only £2 a couple of years later – were all a part of the scene. There was only one album from the Young Disciples, even though plaudits were free flowing and the first ever Mercury music prize followed in 1992.
A solo career then came for Anderson, with self penned tunes including Mama Said, collaborations with artists such as Paul Weller (she appears angelically on the song Wings of Speed, a highlight of his Stanley Road set) and some memorable covers, such as her version of Donny Hathaway’s A Song For You. Her latest project and seventh solo album, The Cage Street Memorial – now also a music and stage production – was part-funded by the Arts Council England and sees her going back to basics with a trio, while some tracks are just piano nd vocals. But tonight is all about the party. I get to Camden’s Roundhouse for the 3rd gig of the Innervisions festival and it’s a hot night, having been touching 32 degrees C for most of the day in London. I catch the end of UK vintage funksters Cymande, before the powerhouse that is Bluey Maunick’s Incognito – who have a rich UK jazz-funk heritage of their own – arrive on-stage. (See Cocoa’s throwback link to read about the night Incognito backed another female music legend, Chaka Khan, at Ronnie Scotts jazz club in London.
The feelgood factor is in the air, and whether football may or may never be coming home, the music and spirit of London as cultural centre never went away. And who better to represent than these guys. They kick off with a song from 1979 to celebrate 39 years in the business, before their band – which swells to a 13 piece – works through some serious grooves. The crowd are already warm by the time they drop their version of Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing, before moving breezily through As from his Songs In The Key Of Life set. It’s when the band are fronted by the diminutive but powerful Soulstress Anderson that things really crackle though. Her appearance is preceded by a story from Bluey where he reminisces about being played The Young Disciples, Road To Freedom set in Gilles Peterson’s office at Talkin’ Loud… “In my head I said oh sh*t, but my heart said, oh wow!” They tear through the classic Apparently Nothing, and the voice has lost none of its impact, with lyrics such as ‘what have we learned from history’ resonating just as powerfully as ever. Bluey is so impressed with the live take he proclaims “Apparently Everything!” as a compliment when it ends. Carleen Anderson then sits on keys to play All that glitters ain’t gold from her Cage Street Memorial set, backed by the full band. A number of female vocalists take the lead before and after Anderson’s set surprising the audience with an eclectic mix, which includes a cover of Christopher Cross’s Ride Like The Wind. Incognito continue to call the tune long into the July summers night, reminding the audience of their pedigree and longevity. They represent so much of what is best about London’s music scene, and Camden’s Roundhouse homecoming felt like they’d come full circle.